Sometimes the politics need to get tossed aside. A former student of mine, now a professional photographer here in San Diego, is from a coastal town in New Jersey. He went back to help his family deal with the devastation and put together a slide show of what he saw. Here is his email to his friends in its entirety. On a holiday to give thanks, it is, for us out of the path of destruction, in our warm houses with our bellies full of turkey and goodies, sometimes hard to grasp the desperate needs of others. Here is an up close and personal look.
I’m re-publishing this not to entertain or to make you feel good; but to make you better understand that a part of the world that is still struggling, is not in some far off place but on our own shores and with precious little support from our government despite photo ops and promises, to survive and get back to living after the news crews left and the TV lights were turned off.
I am sure that everyone has seen so much of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy as it slammed into cities like Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Manhattan, and others. Sometimes the images on TV might be larger than life but the media leaves us only a small view of the shear range of the devastation. There were a couple hundred small towns and small communities along the coast from Ocean City, Maryland through the Jersey Shore and reach past Montauk, NY out on Long Island. These small towns I can tell you from first hand knowledge are our Main Street, USA’s. Neighborhoods full of families who have lived there for generations along the coastline. Small towns with high school football games to attend on Saturdays in the fall. Those wintertime gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors around the holidays. Families taking their kids for pizza & ice cream on the Boardwalks at the beach on warm summer nights.
That is the kind of town I was blessed to grow up in. My town was Manasquan, NJ on the Jersey Shore about 10 miles north of Seaside Heights and 10 miles south of Belmar, NJ. Both Seaside and Belmar were towns where Governor Christie and President Obama made it a point to stop and meet with Victims and survey the damage. 3 days after the storm I flew home to go help my family and friends. At the time of booking my flight, I can honestly say I didn’t exactly know how or what kind of help I might give. After seeing the initial catastrophic images of surrounding towns on TV, all I knew was I had to get back to help even if just cleaning up or being there for family.
Neither words, nor photos, or even TV can bring the true emotions of seeing the aftermath in person. I constantly found myself thinking back 5 weeks prior I was in that same town for my little sisters wedding. Taking wedding photos on those very same storybook beaches. Enjoying the warm September weather and ocean. Biking in the rain, having drinks at the local bars with childhood friends. But now I found myself in a town left devastated from the storm. People waiting 5-6 days before getting their 1st chance to see if their houses were still standing. Everyday people in the streets cutting apart 40-60 foot trees blocking whole roads. A community where around 1/3 of the town found itself flooding, families were now completely gutting out houses and tossing decades of memories to the curb due to sewage contaminated flood waters.
The magnitude of this tragic storm is, that “This” same reality I was experiencing was being played out in every coastal town from Ocean City, Maryland up to Montauk, NY and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people were experiencing the same tragedy. There were moments while I was walking the debris filled streets that it truly felt apocalyptic. But even in those moments I continued to see the spirit of family and neighbors. Churches and groups of organized private citizens driving around offering warm blankets, food for lunch, batteries, bottle water, cleaning supplies, etc.. There also seemed to be a spirit of determination by the community that “We would persevere and work hard to rebuild.” Even if it took their lifetimes.
I put together this slideshow of my photos from my hometown. The song is “Today’s Tomorrow” by The White Buffalo.
I have also posted a gallery of images on my photography site.
HOW TO HELP SANDY VICTIMS
If you are finding yourself wanting to figure out some way to help out. I suggest to go onto Facebook and search to see if there are any Hurricane Sandy Victims Benefits or Events in your area.
If you are looking to contribute or make a donation I would suggest Sandy NJ Relief Fund
which was set up by Mary Pat Christie, wife of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
When the images leave our TV sets, Please Do Not Forget the Hurricane Sandy Victims. They have a long road ahead of them and will need your help.
(858) 952 – 9999 mobile
John Cocozza Photography
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